From Linda: The PVBC Osaka Missions Team 2016 has just returned from Japan, and I would like to share some of my final reflections on our trip. We are so grateful to God, our families and friends, and our PVBC church family for giving us this opportunity to serve in Japan. It truly was a team effort, not just for our own missions team, but for our entire team of supporters who partnered with us through prayer and financial donations. Special thanks to Amanda, my co-administrator, and to our team: Kent, Janet, Jessica, Sharon, Kimi, Scott, Cody, Brandon, Naomi, and Matthew.
This summer was my third trip to Suita Bible Gospel Church to help with their VBS program. Each year God called just the right people according to his purpose. The first two trips established a great partnership with SBGC in developing a solid VBS program which included songs, skits, Bible lessons, crafts, games, other fun activities. This year, God really put a burden on my heart to make a connection with the parents who bring their children to VBS. In the past, we didn’t really have an opportunity to get to know the parents and felt that there was a need to build relationships between new parents and SBGC members, so they would feel comfortable bringing their children back to church after VBS was over.
In her blog, Sharon wrote about her seminar on “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. The attendees seemed to really enjoy it, especially the card-making craft that followed. It was great to see a couple of the pastors even join in on the activity!
Earlier that same day, I was able to present a seminar entitled “Lessons on Learning: Educating Children in the 21st Century.” Through my talk and PowerPoint presentation, I touched on ways children learn, trends in American education, and things parents can do at home to help their children maximize their learning potential. Special thanks to Masako for helping to translate my presentation and handouts into Japanese before our trip! It was encouraging to see the parents so engaged in the information that was presented. Pastor O. even mentioned in our team debrief that it was surprising to see so many moms asking questions after the presentation, as they usually remain pretty quiet during discussions. Even up until our last day in Osaka, I was still having conversations with parents regarding their children’s learning!
On our final day of VBS we had another opportunity to interact with the parents. While the children were in VBS, Junko sang 8-9 songs for the moms, then gave her very moving testimony in Japanese. Having grown up in Osaka, she was able to share a special bond with the parents as she told of her former insecurities coming to America from the Land of the Rising Sun and finding her worth in the Risen Son. Following Junko’s mini-concert, I was able to give a short presentation and demonstration of how to make spam musubi (to go along with our Hawaiian theme). Surprisingly, only one mom had ever tasted spam, and none had ever heard of spam musubi! They enjoyed making the musubi in small groups, then eating them together over lunch. I was able to spend time getting to know many of the moms and encouraging them to continue to attend the church.
On our last day in Osaka, I led the team devotional from John 15:16- You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
This is an excerpt from my message to our team: In looking at the first part of the verse, it says “you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you” it was interesting that, for the first time, I was asked a number of times during this trip about the process of selecting the members of our missions team. While this process of filling out an application, submitting your testimony, and going through the interview process was important, it wasn’t the missions committee or the team leaders who ultimately chose this team, but it was God who chose and appointed each one of you for His specific purpose. You each brought your own God-given set of skills and talents to this team and you each played an important role in the success of this mission.
The next part of the verse says: “…that we should go and bear fruit.” God chose you and sent you on this mission to bear fruit. Galatians 5:22 reminds us that if we are led by the spirit, we will bear such fruit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Throughout this past week and even before we arrived in Osaka, there was evidence of bearing such fruit: whether it was demonstrating love, kindness, and gentleness with the VBS kids, or radiating pure joy as we sang and danced to the catchy VBS songs, practicing faithfulness by participating in our team devotionals and faithfully updating our blog posts or finally, by exercising patience, peace, and self-control as we interacted with one another and learned to flex when things didn’t go as expected.
The next part of the verse says: …”that your fruit should abide,” According to the NIV translation “that your fruit should abide” means fruit that will last. The seeds of these fruits have been planted in the hearts of those we met here in Osaka and will continue in you, as well. My encouragement to you is to always remember the faithfulness of God in calling you to this mission.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Some of my closing thoughts to SBGC and to our PVBC supporters:
Being part of a missions team has been a special privilege. We have had the opportunity to bond as a team, grow in our personal faith, and be exposed to new cultural experiences. I am sure God called me to Japan, because as a fourth generation Japanese American, I didn’t even know the difference between yakiniku and okonomiyaki! But most importantly, we were able to share the gospel message with so many children through VBS, as well as minister to the parents and the JS group through a number of seminars and activities.
Although God blessed us with a great team this year, it really doesn’t take any special talents or credentials to serve on a missions team, but just a willingness to serve.
Isaiah 6:8 says- Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
I encourage you all to be open to God’s calling on your heart to serve in the mission field, whether it be overseas in another country or here in the US. Are you willing to say: “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
You will surely be blessed, as we have been.